For the first time this season four Wildcats scored in double-figures as the Kentucky women’s basketball team rolled to a 67-57 win over Wofford Monday night in front of 4,212 fans in Memorial Coliseum. It marked UK’s final non-conference game of the regular season as the Wildcats open conference play Thursday against Florida at home.
Senior Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) led the team in scoring with 16 points while sophomore Amani Franklin (Decatur, Ga.) added 15. Freshman Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) and sophomore Lydia Watkins (Hopkinsville, Ky.) followed with 10 points apiece. Elliott and Watkins also pulled down six rebounds each to lead UK on the boards. Elliott now has 703 career boards, becoming just the ninth Wildcat in school history to grab 700 or more rebounds.
“We are thrilled to win the game,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We had a very tough non-conference schedule that we didn’t handle great and we needed a win to have some sort of momentum going in [to SEC play].”
The Wildcats (6-8) used a 14-2 run mid-way through the first half to open a 15-point lead, (36-21), with 3:08 to go. The Wildcats would never trail in the game as Elliott and Franklin combined for 24 points in the opening stanza, scoring 12 apiece. UK led 39-27 at the half after shooting 47.1 percent from the field (16-of-34).
Unlike the last game when the Wildcats were limited to just three field goals in the second half against Xavier, Kentucky came out on fire in the second half, extending its lead to 24 points with 7:33 remaining in the game. Seniors Chelsea Chowning (Berea, Ky.) and Chante’ Bowman (Detroit) helped spark the Wildcats’ play as Chowning hit 3-of-5 from the floor and finished with eight second-half points while Bowman dished out a season-high five assists. UK’s bench outscored Wofford’s 35-20.
“Our players are playing with more confidence right now and a kid like Chowning and Bowman come in and just play their tails off,” Mitchell said. “We still have a lot of work to do but I was proud of our effort.”
Wofford, owners of a six-game winning streak coming into tonight’s game, didn’t give up despite the large deficit. The Terriers (9-5), held UK to just 33.3 percent (10-of-30) shooting in the final 20 minutes, including 25.0 percent (2-of-8) from the three-point line. They eventually cut UK’s lead to nine with :34 seconds left but could get no closer as the Wildcats held on for the win.
Junior guard Liz Miller and senior forward Kelsi Koenig led the Wofford attack, scoring 13 and 10 points, respectively. Wofford hit 7-of-20 from beyond the arc, including 5-of-8 in the second half.
“Obviously, we didn’t finish the game out but we played about 33 minutes pretty good,” Mitchell said. “We were up by about 24 and we were trying to get some people some minutes. We have to find positives at this point of the season and having a half of basketball where we shoot 47 percent in a half – we haven’t seen that in a long time.”
UK and Wofford were even on the boards at 42-42 each but UK outscored the Terriers in points in the paint, 36-20. The Wildcats also forced 26 turnovers and committed just 17 of their own.
Kentucky is now 446-235 (.655) all-time in non-conference games, including a 6-8 record this season. The Wildcats are 10-0 all-time vs. teams from the Southern Conference.
The Wildcats will open SEC play Thursday, Jan. 10 vs. Florida in Memorial Coliseum. Game time is 7 p.m. ET.